In Catholic schools in the Diocese of Camden, students try their hand at journalism through school-sponsored print publications, television stations and other classroom activities.
And whether it’s sharing school news or interviewing Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Jordan Mailata — and everything in between — educators and school leaders say drills are key to developing skills that will benefit students for years to come.
“Journalism is a valuable skill for all students, but especially for high school students, who absorb news content via the Internet every day,” says Alexa Loreaux, professor of world literature and religion at Holy Spirit High School, Absecon , and an advisor for The Journal Spartan Spirit. “It’s important that they have the writing as a creative outlet in the beginning. Then, as they learn more about all that journalism brings to society, they begin to appreciate ethical journalists and seek out reliable sources on their own.
The Spartan Spirit offers students the opportunity to participate in every stage of a newspaper’s production, including the planning and design of each of the approximately four issues published each year. The publication covers the latest happenings at school and church, with news related to academics, sports, extracurricular activities and faith.
Students can also participate in the production of Spartan TV, which is part of the school’s performing arts program. The newly refurbished television studio is the ideal workshop for students to develop segments on academics, arts and sports – as well as a range of other programming. There’s “Walking with Francis,” which updates students on Pope Francis’ latest travels and advice, and “From the Desk of the Doc,” which includes a weekly interview with director Dr. Tom Farren.
“We have editors, writers, presenters, cameramen and all the components of a working studio,” says Claire Collins, music and instrument teacher and consultant for Spartan TV. “I am very proud of these students. My dream for Spartan TV was to be entirely student-run so they could learn the importance of seeking the truth and then how to bring it back to the community, and most importantly, be proud to have their name attached to the story.
The Spartan TV team has weekly meetings to discuss the stories they will be covering – student service projects, student government updates, or a wide range of other topics. Each meeting, says Collins, includes a discussion of “the importance and responsibility of stating the facts, and most importantly, the need to report positive news that will inspire and guide our students toward fulfilling our mission statement and our Christian values”.
As Holy Spirit High School celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, student journalists will work hard to tell the story of their alma mater, as well as its staff and some of the things that make their school community special. They will also cover special events organized to mark the event.
Students attending Catholic Partnership Schools in the Camden area also receive training in journalism, as part of their English curriculum. The schools are partnering with Healthy NewsWorks, an organization that “empowers elementary and middle school students to become confident researchers, writers, critical thinkers, and communicators who advance health understanding and literacy through to their factual publications and digital media”.
Jameka McGraw-Byrd, executive director of Catholic Partnership Schools, says the collaboration has been extremely valuable to the students.
“They learn the basics of good journalism – how to find credible sources, conduct good interviews and tell truthful stories in an engaging way,” she explains. “We have also partnered in the past with Penn Literacy Network to train our teachers to integrate literacy into our curriculum in rich and engaging ways.”
Students had the chance to contribute to a student newspaper, and earlier this year some students did a Zoom interview with Jordan Mailata of the Philadelphia Eagles. Middle school students from École Sainte-Cécile and École du Sacré-Coeur were also able to take an elective course, Digital Art and Design, as well as a summer course in photography. Such an experience, McGraw-Byrd says, is part of their effort to introduce students to a variety of career paths.
She adds another tangible benefit of exposure to journalism education: “With increasing student access to the internet, misinformation and disinformation are huge problems. Our teachers model the search for reliable and credible sources early in our students’ academic careers. »
McGraw-Byrd and Loreaux also explained how students remain mindful of their Catholic values in their reporting. This includes treating interviewees with decency and honor, regardless of their perspective.
“Students typically choose to write about faith-based topics such as Masses and holy days at our school throughout the year,” says Loreaux. “Motivating them to keep this Catholic spirituality at the center of journalistic practices allows them to remain mindful of their beliefs in whatever they pursue.”
Student journalists at Holy Spirit High School – including second Angel Elefante, Spartan TV producer, and juniors Brian Palin, Delaney Evans and Liza Martino, who are presenters on various programs, said they developed research skills and in writing thanks to these experiences.
“It is so easy with social media to instantly spread misinformation to any community around the world and manipulate the truth or present only one point of view,” the students agreed. “We found that we need to use several resources that can be verified to ensure that the news we report is the exact truth.”
They added, “Our writers had to not only tell the story, but add the perspective of our Christian values to the segments we present while maintaining integrity and truth.”